The Denver Broncos finished the first half of the season with 7-1 record. There have been plenty of ups and a couple downs.
Their offense has been close to unstoppable, while the defense has struggled at times but seems to be turning the corner with the return of Von Miller.
Peyton Manning has the team poised for a Super Bowl run. There have been several defining this season but there are five that have really stuck out for Denver.
5. Knowshon Moreno trots out as starting running back
All through training camp and the preseason, there was no idea who the starting running for the Broncos was going to be. Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball were getting a lot of first-team reps and the youngsters looked to have a lock on the starting job.
Moreno sat and waited his turn, and when the season started, he came out with Manning and the starting offense. Moreno has never let go of the job. Ball and Hillman have both had fumbling problems and Moreno just keeps chugging along. As long as he stays healthy, Moreno will be on the field and huge contributor to the offense. Manning trusts him and his pass protection is stellar. Moreno is right where he needs to be.
4. Broncos go for it twice on fourth down against the Redskins
John Fox is a conservative coach to say the least. He doesn’t like to take chances and would much rather punt the ball away and play field position. But against Washington, the coach had no choice but to go out on a limb.
The Broncos fell behind 21-7 early in the third quarter after Manning threw a pick-six to DeAngelo Hall. Denver needed a touchdown on the next drive or the game may have slipped away. On that first drive, Denver faced a 4th-and-2. Manning wanted to go for it, the crowd wanted to go for it and finally Fox realized he had to go for it. The drive ended up with a touchdown.
On the next possession, the Broncos drove all the way down to the 1-yard line but could not punch it in. Denver could kick the field goal and make it 21-17 or go for the tie. Once again, Fox changed his style and went for it and scored a touchdown.
Fox sometimes needs to realize his offense is the power of his team and let them do their job.
3. Manning tells Moreno not to score against Dallas
Yes, Manning didn’t want to score a touchdown. The Broncos had to play for a field goal. As weird as it sounds it was the right call. In a game where the Denver defense had struggled to stop the Cowboys in the second half, the Broncos couldn’t give the ball back to Dallas.
The Broncos needed a first down from the Cowboys’ 2-yard line. They needed one yard for the first, two for the touchdown. Manning walked in the huddle and told Moreno he couldn’t score a touchdown. He could only get the first down.
Moreno was confused by the request but went on and achieved the feat. Moreno helped run out the clock and the Broncos kicked the winning field goal.
2. Manning throws a record seven touchdown passes
The Broncos were out of make a statement on opening night against the Baltimore Ravens. Denver was knocked out of the playoffs by Baltimore. Revenge was on the Broncos’ mind but nothing can really erase the disappointment of the playoff collapse. Manning did his best to make that thought go away.
The Broncos quarterback threw a NFL-record seven touchdown passes. He shredded the Ravens defense in a 49-27 win. The game set the Broncos and Manning off on the record pace they are on. It showed that the Broncos could be a real force in the NFL this season.
1. Danny Trevathan picks off Tony Romo
The play of the first half has nothing to do with the record-setting offense. It is all about defense. The unit has been thought of as the weak link all season and the game against the Cowboys was the worst. They gave up 48 points to Dallas, and luckily for Denver it scored 51. The Broncos wouldn’t have scored those final three points without Trevathan’s interception at the two-minute warning.
Romo had been great all day but he finally made a mistake at the wrong time. Trevathan dived in front of the tight end Gavin Escobar and saved the game for the Broncos.
The pick set up Matt Prater’s winning field goal and kept the Broncos undefeated at the time. The biggest play in an offense-filled game was made by the defense. It was the defining moment of the first half.
Chris Schmaedeke is currently the Assistant Sports Editor at the Daily Camera in Boulder. He has worked in sports journalism in Colorado since 2001 when he started at the Rocky Mountain News. He has covered the Denver Broncos for several websites over the past two years.
Follow Chris on Twitter at @ChrisSchmaedeke